In the past few years, Tunisian President Keith Said has borrowed more than a few pages from Donald Trump’s script.
Since taking office, he has attacked the system that pushed him to power in the name of “the people”, insulted the parliament and members of parliament, and undermined the parliamentary system on which the country’s democratic system depends.
Like the former president of the United States, he has been insulting and attacking political parties, media, and state institutions, which inhibited his desire to do what he wanted as president.
He even attacked the constitution, demanded that it be amended to allow greater presidential powers, and prevented the establishment of a constitutional court.
To make matters worse, he praised Egypt’s dictatorship after visiting Trump’s “favorite dictator” President Sisi in April last year.
Finally, this week, Said succeeded in what Trump failed to do on January 6. He incited his followers to attack Congress in the name of “the people”-he successfully exploited popular dissatisfaction and recent Nationwide demonstrations to close the parliament, dissolve the government and take over the levers of state power, albeit temporarily.
But history tells us that in a populist environment, “temporary” has a way to become “permanent temporary,” because weird leaders who claim to represent the “people” tend to subject the entire governing affairs to their own whims and emotions.
In short, everything that happened in Tunisia this week shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, it has been a long time.
But what made the collapse of Tunisia become quite surreal is that Said, unlike Trump, is not a shady businessman. He is a law professor, who knows better-who should know better.
He invoked Article 77 of the Constitution to claim absolute supremacy over the national security forces, and invoked Article 80 to defend his coup. However, one does not need a constitutional lawyer to see that his interpretation of these two articles is completely flawed, whether it is for good intentions or malice.
Said did not coordinate the “emergency” steps he announced with the heads of government and parliament. Instead, he used new measures against them and in the process undermined the country’s constitutional decentralization-all of which are based on ” In the name of the people, of course.
But then again, populism is not limited to any particular profession, nationality, or religion.
In recent years, we have seen it received support from people from all walks of life, destroying new and old democracies around the world. In these countries, populist leaders have used the people’s frustration and dissatisfaction with the status quo to concentrate more power on In their hands. Undermine the division of constitutional power.
Tunisia is no exception, alas.
Since the success of the peaceful revolution ten years ago, Tunisians have become increasingly frustrated with the country’s deepening economic crisis and political paralysis.
In recent weeks, their frustration has turned into anger, as the pandemic has caused severe damage to this relatively small country of 11 million people and has caused more than 17,000 deaths to date.
But as the situation deteriorated, Tunisian politicians, including the president, did not put their differences aside at all and continued to manage the people and meet their basic needs.
To make matters worse, Tunisian politics has become a “power politics,” focusing on the management of personal self rather than public affairs.
So yes, Tunisians have every right to be angry.
But for my whole life, I don’t see how after decades of dictatorship, returning to one-man rule will solve the country’s problems or serve its long-term interests.
This is not to say that I did not see the appeal of the concept of “national savior” in the dark times. But it has been tried and failed. This is a pipe dream.
Populist leaders are very good at condemning, eradicating and sabotaging, but they are often proved to be completely incompetent in terms of cooperation, coordination and construction.
In this way, Said has not stopped complaining since he took office, but he has hardly proposed any solutions to any problems facing Tunisia.
Like Trump, his solution to Tunisia’s “holocaust” is exacerbating this situation.
He deprived the Tunisian revolution of the slogan, “The people want the regime to collapse”, that is, the dictatorship of Ben Ali, claiming that “The president wants the regime to collapse”; that is, the same democratic regime that pushed him to power!
All of this brings us back to the tension between populism and democracy; or, more specifically, between populism and liberal democracy, the former uses the dissatisfaction of the people to weaken the post by undermining the Constitution, the media, and state institutions. By.
In this way, like Trump and other populist leaders, President Said seems determined to remove any oversight and all obstacles to his rule.
However, it is too early to judge whether he can achieve this, but for Tunisians and their friends, it is not too late for him to revoke his mandatory unconstitutional measures as soon as possible.
Tunisia’s democracy may not be as old and stable as the United States, but Tunisians have previously demonstrated the ability to make positive changes; they can do so peacefully again.